In­die film delves be­neath ‘Tricks’ of sex trade

> Flick per­son­al­izes lives, strug­gles of pros­ti­tutes

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By John Bei­fuss

bei­fuss@com­mer­cialap­peal.com

On the most ob­vi­ous level, the ti­tle of the movie “Tricks” — a Mem­phis-made fea­ture film about the “work­ing girls” of the fic­tional Heal­ing Touch Mas­sage Par­lor — refers to pros­ti­tutes and their cus­tomers.

But writer-di­rec­tor DeAara Lewis says the word also refers to “the il­lu­sions that we cre­ate to pro­tect our­selves. Turn­ing tricks or play­ing tricks — there’s trick­ery on so many lev­els.”

Lewis’ de­but fea­ture, “Tricks” screens at 8 tonight in a “DVD Release Party” at the New Daisy, 330 Beale. Ad­mis­sion is $20, which in­cludes the af­ter-party and a copy of the DVD. (“I got that idea from Prince,” jokes Lewis, re­fer­ring to the 2004 tour in which the Min­neapo­lis rocker gave a copy of his “Mu­si­col­ogy” al­bum to ev­ery ticket-holder.)

On the posters and in the cred­its, the movie’s ti­tle in­cludes a pe­riod — it’s “Tricks.,” to be pre­cise. Sim­i­larly, the release of the DVD puts a pe­riod at the end of a years-long jour­ney for Lewis’ film, which was shot in 2006, made its de­but at the In­die Mem­phis Film Fes­ti­val in 2007, screened at the Hol­ly­wood Black Film Fes­ti­val in 2008 and now comes to disc on the film­maker’s own Drama Queen En­ter­tain­ment la­bel.

An en­sem­ble com­edy-drama that was shot on dig­i­tal video for about $15,000, the movie is “an ur­ban tale about five Mem­phis pros­ti­tutes, their en­ter­pris­ing madam and the strug­gles of each to not only sur­vive but thrive in an in­dus­try that is deemed im­moral and taboo,” ac­cord­ing to the synopsis on the “Tricks” Web site.

Lewis’ pre­sen­ta­tion of the char­ac­ters is sym­pa­thetic and non­judg­men­tal. As the movie’s ad-line asks: “Is It Wrong If It Pays the Bills?” Said Lewis, 30, who ap­pears in the film: “This is a story that shows what women, es­pe­cially moth­ers, will go through to care for their chil­dren and them­selves.”

As a mem­ber of Mem­phis’ rel­a­tively small but ac­tive African-Amer­i­can film­mak­ing com­mu­nity (an­other mem­ber is Rod Pitts, the ed­i­tor, cin­e­matog­ra­pher and as­so­ciate pro­ducer on “Tricks”), Lewis said she has been asked fre­quently why she made a movie about crime and pros­ti­tu­tion — sub­jects that have fu­eled many a cliché-rid­den “blax­ploita­tion” film.

“Be­fore peo­ple see the movie, they ask, ‘Why do we have to talk about the same sub­ject mat­ter?’ But af­ter the movie, they un­der­stand. It res­onates very strongly among women.”

Even so, Lewis — who works in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions for Mem­phis City Schools — said her next movies will be very dif­fer­ent. She plans to fol­low “Tricks” with “Who the Hell is Dickie Love?,” a ro­man­tic com­edy, and “Christina,” a hor­ror movie.

For more in­for­ma­tion or to or­der a copy of the DVD, visit tricksmovie.com. The DVD also will be avail­able at Spin Street, 3484 Po­plar, and Black Lodge Video, 831 S. Cooper.

Mem­phian DeAara Lewis is writer and di­rec­tor of the lo­cally pro­duced “Tricks.”

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